National Friendly

Ablaze work closely with many businesses and people who are passionate about raising aspirations and tackling inequality of opportunity for young people. One of these people is Kurtis Reece, a Digital Marketing Executive at National Friendly, who told us why he believes businesses should support local schools.

I was born in Bristol during the mid-80s and raised in the heart of Easton. There is a great sense of collaboration between the community and the local businesses there which has always resonated with me.

Between the ages of four to eleven, I attended Glenfrome Primary School and although I enjoyed my overall learning experience, I found it difficult to concentrate academically. Not working as an adult was never an option for me – how could it be? So many people I knew within my community were providing each other with job opportunities and the volunteers at the Felix Road Adventure Playground, where I used to play after school, prompted me to start thinking about my future.

My peers and I found it difficult to identify with what was expected of us in terms of achieving at school. None of the teachers at the time lived in Easton and the only jobs that they mentioned in line with getting a good education was to become a lawyer, a doctor or a teacher. At the time, I didn’t believe I could become any of those things. Yes, there was a doctors’ surgery and a school nearby…but again, I couldn’t identify with becoming a doctor or a teacher because there weren’t any black people in these highly regarded positions in my area.

My mother, who is a very intelligent and well-educated woman, has always been my biggest inspiration. She is a single parent and pursued her career as a Mental Health Law Practitioner. Her work carried her to various parts of the UK working for long weeks away at a time, leaving me to live with my aunty (who is also a single parent) and my two cousins. With my mother constantly working and my aunty looking after me, it was extremely difficult for me to pursue any of my interests outside of school or beyond the Felix Road Adventure Playground.

Children gain confidence by learning new skills or pursuing the activities that they are knowingly good at.  If today’s children are not introduced or supported in learning and developing new skills outside of the classroom, how do we expect them to gain the confidence that they need in reading, writing and maths? I believe each of those three key things can be taught as part of an enjoyable approach.

There are so many businesses within Bristol who could benefit from opening their doors and creating new experiences for children of all different races, from all different backgrounds. When the workplace is filled with multi-talented people who are of all different ages & backgrounds, with a mixture of different work experiences and qualifications, everyone involved benefits.

Businesses today have the opportunity to help schools shape the future for young people. There are a number of different initiatives that businesses could look into, such as the Ablaze Reading Buddy programme, or partnering with local primary/secondary schools to create mentoring programmes to help provide them with resources which the school itself or the local authority can’t fund.  Businesses can play an integral part in informing children as to why education is so important and also introduce them to what life is like after they leave the education system to begin their working career.

Today, I work for the National Friendly Deposit Society as a Digital Marketing Executive. I am also a school governor at Glenfrome Primary School and a member of the Race Equality in Education Steering Group.  National Friendly’s relationship with Ablaze began in 2010 and since then we have formed a strong partnership with our partner school, Cabot Primary School, utilising the skills and commitment of our staff volunteers. Ablaze Bristol introduced National Friendly to the school in February 2017, as they needed help to raise the literacy attainment levels of pupils struggling with their learning/reading.

I joined National Friendly in August 2018 and instantly began thinking of ways in which we could collaborate with the school beyond the Reading Buddies Programme. As part of our company sponsorship of the M Shed Bristol’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, I arranged a free trip for the Year 2 pupils of Cabot Primary School to visit the exhibition. For many of the pupils, it was the first time that they had ever visited the M Shed. The collaboration between the M Shed, Ablaze, Cabot Primary School and ourselves was instrumental in creating a new learning experience for those pupils on that day.

We have now incorporated Cabot Primary School into our 2019 Marketing plan – this is only the first of many new experiences we will facilitate for the pupils at this school.  We like to feel we are playing our small part in making happy memories as Bristol pupils take their journey through the education system.

Ablaze is and independent charity tackling inequality of opportunity for young people in the West of England. We do this by utilising the skills and commitment of business volunteers. We aim to raise young people’s confidence and aspiration; support their attainment and skill levels; and empower them with knowledge to make informed choices about their future. If you would like to find out more about our Primary School programmes or Secondary School programmes, including how these can benefit your business, please get in touch.